Anselmo Mendes – Checking Out The 2011 Vintage


Here we go again! More Vinho Verde. This time from the master himself. If you like Vinho Verde wines or want to find out more about them, you’ve come to the right place. And there’s more to be found on Facebook as well, on my page. To find links, click on the Follow me tag to the right. And hey, don’t forget to check out Mad about Madeira as well! Yup, that’s correct; a site solely dedicated to the world’s most breathtaking wine! Welcome.

Shy? Me?

There are a few winemakers out there which, no matter what challenge they seem to choose to tackle, ends up with a result right up my alley. As if their only quest were to produce a wine that fits my palate. No, no, don’t worry. I’m not hit by hubris and believes standards are set with me as a reference point. It’s just such a blissful feeling knowing that I can pick up a bottle from this or that producer and know it wont disappoint my taste buds.

Anselmo Mendes belongs to that collection of mine – winemakers producing wine destined for my tastebuds. Without treading on anyone’s toes, Anselmo is in my world Portugal’s leading white-winemaker. From impressive and mineral driven entry wines to the premium bottlings of Curtimenta and Parcela Unica. With or without barrique contact, his wines never looses touch with the habitat, where the vines are cultivated. “My wine is made in the vineyard,” he said more than once last time we met. Tasting my way through 10 of his wines I can only subscribe to that statement, having recently traveled and tasted my way through both Vinho Verde and Douro.

So, besides being an extremely skilled and enthusiastic winemaker; what’s so special about his wines? For me, the explanation is simple. Anselmo combines the best of two worlds; traditional techniques with modern know-how. Winelovers tend to be nostalgic people. Many are we who holds older mature wines we’ve tasted as memories for life. At the same time we strive for wines honest to their terroir and wines showing impeccably clean nose and taste; something which is the result of the, roughly speaking, last twenty years of winemaking reaching new levels. But even though many older wines we’ve tasted were quite mediocre, we remember the great ones. The techniques behind those, the good old Portuguese wines, are something which Anselmo has shown a lot of interest in.

No, I’m not shy!

To give you an example; several of Anselmo’s Alvarinho wines are allowed skin contact at the fermentation, a technique more common in the past. Furthermore the treading is without destemming. The white wines of Anselmo often has a slight green touch which I know he highly appreciates. Me to. Oh, and add stirring of the lees to that. An ancient method to add richness to a wine. The old school method adds that character. But in order not to get stalky white wines with a hefty tannin grip, he combines the old know-how with modern techniques and the latest equipment to keep control of everything from temperature at fermentation to the wine’s development before ending up in the bottle. The nostalgic clientele gets their part but with a result so clean and consecutive which wasn’t possible back in time, at least not on a regular basis.

Ah, batata frita!

I’m re-meeting Anselmo and his wife Fernanda a day in May. Besides the joy of talking with these two great and generous people, I’m excited to taste the 2011 vintage – and a quartet from the Douro project of Anselmo’s, Quinta dos Frades (this post only handling the white wines though). 2011 have so far been very good amongst all those Vinho Verde wines I’ve had and it doesn’t come as a surprise that Anselmo Mendes wines also are of the highest quality in eleven. Several of them has that green feel, with cool stone fruits and wet rocks both on the nose and palate.

The 2011 Loureiro Escolha Muros Antigos is such a delicate wine with just a discrete hint of floral notes. Loureiro can easily become a bit too expressive but here you get a touch of jasmine, wet rocks, fresh herbs and green apples. Stone fruits on the palate together with a citrus like acidity and just a touch of unripe peaches and pineapple. Easy-going but delicious and with some depth. A personal favorite is the Contacto since I had the 2008 the first time in Portugal a few years ago.

The 2011 Contacto Alvarinho is without doubt the best one so far with a good concentration and mineral driven taste. Such lovely peach notes, some flowers and with a dash of fennel and citrus. It smells like a summer rain! Already fine but a year’s cellaring will reward you. The wine stays on its sediment for a couple of months and that really adds some depth to the Contacto. A hard to beat Alvarinho at the price.

Both the 2011 Muros de Melgaco Alvarinho and the 2011 Muros Antigos Alvarinho differ in style from the Contacto. The Muros Antigos shows lots of mineral feel as well but also more tropical scents although the pineapples are of the unripe kind and the peaches more like the white ones. There’s a slight herbal touch and a jasmine scent. Pretty nice stuff and the palate follows the nose. Dry and restrained with a hint of orange blossom. The Muros de Melgaco differs from the others being more rich on the palate. Still dry and only flirting with the tropical scents. The creamy feel hides the acidity and I get the feeling this one needs some time to allow the oak to settle. Yes, fermented in oak and also aged for a while in them, mostly used barrels.

Then finally, two of Portugal’s greatest white wines – the 2011 Curtimenta Alvarinho and the 2011 Parcela Unica Alvarinho. Which one you choose as your favorite is of course a matter of taste, although there is just a pinch of extra depth and concentration in the Parcela Unica. Both wines stays on 400 liters French oak barrels and despite up to nine months on oak for the Curtimenta, the oak is professionally integrated. This is how a master works. Not all has that certain fingerspitzgefühl what is too much and what is perfect.

The Curtimenta shows wet rocks, green apples and white peaches. Some toasted oak revealing coffee and a dash of vanilla. A hint of jasmine on the nose as well. Love that! Slighty herbal touch, reminding me of fennel and sage. Mineral driven taste with classy acidity and a restrained fruit style. Intense, yet elegant, Impeccably clean. Youthful with a bright future ahead. Believe me, you want to drink this one and perhaps next to a Grand Cru Chablis, just to understand how darn good it is.

The ultimate magic comes with Parcela Unica. The best Alvarinho grapes is used for this extremely limited wine. Basically similar to the Curtimenta with the exception of showing more mineral depth, a more complex taste and intensity and an impressive long lasting finale. Less oak feel which might be explained by a greater intensity in the wine. A keeper. Parcela Unica might be one of Portugal’s top-3 best white wines! It is, in my book…

Curtimenta and Parcela Unica are probably the two best Alvarinhos you can find, be it in Portugal or in Spain. But then again; they are the result of Anselmo Mendes – Mr. Alvarinho himself. Try them if you didn’t believe white wines of this quality could emerge from Portugal – or from the Vinho Verde region for that matter!

Buy the wines of Anselmo Mendes? Use Vinopedia to find his wines. Click here.

PS. Also read my post on Quinta de Linhares where Anselmo Mendes is the consulting winemaker. Or the post on Quinta do Ameal where Pedro Araujo also works together with Anselmo. Great results there as well.

PS.2. Last year’s encounter with Anselmo here.

PS.3. My Swedish readers can pick up the 2011 Contacto at 124 SEK.